When I first went gluten-free, it wasn’t that hard.
Two years after going gluten-free, I also went dairy-free. I also try my best to avoid refined sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and non-organic produce. Oh, and did I mention that I don’t eat meat unless I know who killed the animal, or eggs unless they’re from a local farm?
With that, my diet was one of more-or-less simple bliss until an odd rash appeared on my face during an episode of stress last fall.
The rash slowly spread. My gut feeling was that it was something I was eating, but I had already eliminated many things from my diet, it seemed. At one point I thought it was ringworm and treated it with lavender essential oil. When that didn’t help it go away, I eliminated nightshades from my diet without success. Then I tried eliminating legumes, eggs, nuts. Nothing helped. The rash continued to spread around my chin, on either side of my nose, and finally, in the corners of and underneath my eyes.
I tried super dosing on vitamins, including vitamins D and B. I started taking more probiotics. I stopped using coconut oil on my face and tried avocado oil. It didn’t help.
This went on for over three months. The frustration was horrible—as someone who’d never had acne, my face suddenly looked like it was broken out all the time. I was very self-conscious about it. It was red, bumpy, and the small dots around my eyes looked like tiny pimples. I stopped going out, started hibernating on nights I saw my boyfriend, and even avoided friends and family just so I didn’t have to explain the rash.
Then, in mid-January, I was eating nutritional yeast by the spoonful when all the sudden my chest felt hot. I began to feel very strange, almost as if I had severe heartburn. My breathing felt slightly constricted. I looked in the mirror and my chest and neck were rapidly turning red. In a matter of seconds, I broke out in hives all over my body, a rash not dissimilar to the one on my face.
Although scary (I’d never had such an allergic reaction before), the yeast incident gave me an important clue into what was causing my rash.
What Is Yeast?
You know yeast—those tiny brown granules that make your gluten-free bread rise! Yeast is found in an untold number of things—yes, of course, there are baker’s and brewer’s yeasts, such as the kinds you find in bread, nutritional yeast, alcohol, etc. Then, there’s also natural yeast. Which happens to be found in jams, strawberries, blueberries, vinegar, grapes, mushrooms, all dried fruits, lactic acid, anything fermented, black tea, olives, peanuts, and more.
So that’s three different kinds of yeast that you have to avoid (and a long list of foods) if you have an intolerance or allergy to yeast. Yeast can even be in coffee and chocolate, depending on how it’s processed. Since it’s even in some natural foods, it seemed that nothing was safe for my face.
What Does This Have to Do with Gluten?
People who have an allergy or intolerance to gluten are more at risk to experience other food allergies and intolerances, as we know. However, because the DNA of yeast is similar to gluten, your body can confuse yeast for gluten. This would likely happen if you had leaky gut. If you’re on the gluten-free diet and not healing, you could be having a reaction to yeast or other foods!
A Yeast Allergy or Intolerance Does Not Equate to the Candida Diet Solution
Candida is not the same thing as baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, or wild yeast (such as those found in strawberries). Candida is a yeast that’s naturally present in our bodies and our gut. Yes, it’s true that some people can have too much of this yeast in their systems, either from medications such as antibiotics, birth control, poor diet, or stress. Excess yeast in the system is responsible for a host of other health problems, and could contribute to whether or not your body develops an allergy or intolerance to it.
However, if you do have excess yeast in your system, you’ll likely have symptoms that point to it. The anti-candida diet is pretty popular, but this diet means you need to stop eating all yeast as well as all types of sugar—including fruit—in order not to “feed” the yeast. This diet can be dangerous and should only be done under the direction of your herbalist, physician, or nutritionist. However, many people feel better on the candida diet because they’ve removed all that refined sugar they’ve been eating, which can also cause many adverse health symptoms—go figure!
What Does Yeast Allergy Have to Do with Leaky Gut?
I eventually did go see a doctor in late January for my face. Yes, you’re surprised that I didn’t see one before that. Well, 9 years ago I was misdiagnosed with a whacky autoimmune disease that led me to be in a wheelchair and on chemo for years. So, I wasn’t exactly ready to see another doctor again. The last doctor I saw, at the age of 21, told me I would be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Months later, I saw a herbalist and found out I was merely gluten intolerant.
But I saw a doctor that came highly recommended by family and friends. He tested me for a range of food intolerances and found out that I was highly intolerant to dairy. But wait, I don’t eat dairy? Well, I found out it was in my lovely “milk-free” probiotic that I was taking.
I was also having slight reactions to a bunch of little things—corn, peanuts, garlic, oats, sesame. This was probably the result of my leaky gut that the doctor diagnosed me with. Admittedly, the yeast allergy was probably a result of my leaky gut as well. Your body can get confused and start attacking foods that are otherwise deemed “safe”. What the heck is wrong with strawberries? Nothing, unless your body thinks there is.
With eliminating all yeasts and the probiotic (get your probiotic from a quality reputed source or from cultured and fermented foods if you can!) from my diet, my rash cleared up nicely, but I found that I still needed to avoid all yeasts for the next several weeks. My body was reacting to it, and I had to avoid it completely to remain rash-free.
Once my body healed and my gut “reset” to learn that yeast isn’t the enemy, I was able to eat yeast again after just a few weeks. To help heal your gut, you need to stay away from prescription drugs, stress, and all foods that are bothering you. It can get better, I promise. Just remember that yeast could be the sneaky culprit behind your symptoms—and it’s not a common food allergy or intolerance, which makes it even harder to discover.
Best of luck!